“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

The Grits Grammar War in Three Part Hominy -- Part II

In Part I, posted June 14, we asked the question: “Is they or are they?” Grits, that is. The answer remained unclear. To continue. . .

Craig Claiborne, originally from Mississippi, became one of the King’s of Culinary America and food editor for The New York Times. He was a grits heavyweight and weighed in on the Grits Grammar War, taking a firm stand on whether grits is/are singular/plural. In an August 23, 1976, Times piece, in which his Southern and writing good manners show in his refusal to refer to himself as I, Craig Claiborne, took his stand. Notice also what a gentleman he is.

Compare his demeanor to that of blowhard Rush Limbaugh, who in my opinion, may be behind this resurgence of the Grits War as a way of defaming the Obama’s and getting revenge on the Dems for naming him head of the GOP. The subject can be polarizing. Claiborne wrote:

(We) felt notably secure in stating recently that grits, that celebrated Southern cereal, constituted a plural noun. We staunchly defend this opinion; but we do feel moved to give the opposition a moment of self defense. We heard from a fellow Mississippian, who shall go nameless as follows:

“I wonder whether you [Craig Claiborne] have quietly fallen victim of a Yankee malaise, one which causes even editors of dictionaries, alas, to refer to grits as a plural noun. . . . [You need to] come back home where grits is IT, not them. Do Yankees refer to those oatmeal? Does one eat one grit or many? Isn’t it supposed at least by tradition, to be a singularly singular noun? Please say it’s so.”


One for are and one for is. The unnamed source from Mississippi has a point: I am diligently searching the dictionaries, style manuals, and grammar books in my spare time for the answer so that you don’t have to; I’ll reveal the answer as it reveals itself.

Remember, by the way, “cain’t” is a very Southern way of saying “can’t.” Northerners will probably get used to that about the time they get used to grits.

Is/are grits a collective noun or do you look under “Plurals” in stylebooks and manuals? Since Claiborne wrote for The New York Times, let’s start there.

Style Manuals

The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, Allan M. Siegal and William G. Connolly. Times Books, 1999.

Under “number of subject and verb,” pgs. 234-235: Sums of money are usually treated as singular because the focus is on the sum. . . . Ten dollars buys less now than five did then.

Aside: I wonder when “then” was back in 1999! Does ten dollars still buy less now in the Recession than five did then? I wonder if “then” might be ten years later, or NOW, 2009!

Under “Plurals,” p. 262: Some words that are plural in form have singular meanings: measles; news. They take singular verbs.

But then the manual gives a couple of words ending in s that can be either singular or plural, depending on use, like ethics and politics. I guess it stands to reason, since politics is/are so confusing anyway. So, no score from here.

A Tie and a Recipe

So far it’s tied. This is a good place to pause with a great Claiborne soup and grits recipe before going on to more style manuals, dictionaries, and grammar books in Part III coming soon.

In a March 2, 1967, New York Times piece, Claiborne recounted visiting with a Montgomery, Ala., “stately matron,” Mrs. Wiley Hill, Jr., in her Southern mansion where she served She-crab and Lobster Soup paired with Grits Soufflé.

She-crab and Lobster Soup

4 cups Italian style plum tomatoes 1 cup shelled green peas

1 cup milk 2 cups heavy cream

1 pound lump crab meat one-and-one-half-pound lobster, cooked

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste Cayenne pepper to taste

¼ teaspoon powdered ginger 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup plus 6 tablespoons dry sherry wine 6 tablespoons whipped cream

Paprika Finely chopped parsley

1. Cook the tomatoes over moderate heat until reduced to a paste, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and burning.

2. Cook peas in salted water to cover until tender. Put through a sieve or food mill and add to tomatoes.

3. Add milk, cream and crab meat. Remove all meat from lobster shell and cut into bite-size pieces. Add to stew. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, ginger, Worcestershire sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, one hour. Add one-half cup sherry.

4. When ready to serve, add one tablespoon sherry to each of six heated soup bowls. Ladle soup over and garnish each serving with a tablespoon of whipped cream sprinkled with paprika and parsley.

Grits Soufflé

2 cups milk 4 cups grits, cooked according to package direction and cooled to room temperature

Salt to taste 8 eggs, separated

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bring the milk just to a boil and stir into grits. Add salt. Beat egg yolks and stir into grits mixture.

3. Whip the whites until stiff and fold into mixture. Butter a two-quart baking dish that is not more than six inches high, and pour mixture into it. Set the dish in a pan of hot water and bake 45 minutes to an hour. Serve immediately.

The search for an answer to the grammar mystery and a Cajun grits recipe will be coming soon.

In the meantime, we will raise our grits to America on its 2009 Birthday in the next post.


Looking Like Yourself

I recall an incident in the eye doctor’s office decades ago, when I first couldn’t read the listings in the phone book. I was trying to read a magazine, unaware of others in the waiting room. Then a little old lady, probably 65, came in and recognized another little old lady, probably 65. They embraced and talked about how long it had been. One lived out in the country and the other in a rural community up the road toward Columbus, Mississippi, just over the state line.

They gossiped a bit. Then the first said to the second, “Well, you won’t believe who I ran into the other day. Mattie Lou.”

“Oh, I haven’t thought about her in so many years. How is she?”

“Well, you just wouldn’t believe it. She looks like herself!”

I buried my face behind a magazine to keep from laughing. I know I DO NOT look like myself, but I was really cute when it counted. JCravey-65_0001

I sure feel like myself, though, a 65-year old grandmother with custody of a toddler whom I have to keep in my eyesight at all times. There are days when it’s scary, like when I think those two women in the doctor’s office are likely deceased, and when I realized that in 10 years, I’ll be 75 and Joanna Leigh will be 12. I’ll be doing well to see her get her driver’s license.

Looking like myself in 1965

Who ?

I have got to remember who I am.

My husband of 40 years and I have become hyper-aware of taking the extra precautions to stay well: Click the seat belts on. Don’t fall. Don’t need any surgery. Take prescribed medications. Get sleep. Don’t pick up any more germs your granddaughter brings home from playschool than you have to. Do this, do that, and don’t don’t don’t.

The other day my husband said, “I’ll tell you this: I’m not having any heart surgery.”

I said, “Yes, you will if it’s necessary. We have a two-year-old to raise.”


Playhouse Raising

We had built one of those tree-playhouse, gym-swing-slide, combo-condos in our back yard for her. The platform was a deck that the dog houses sat on for the rare times the dogs were actually in their pen. HA.

playhouse-6 The platform is now the floor to the first-floor enclosed playhouse, complete with windows on three sides and a front door. The second floor is the “tree house” complete with a tin roof and railing. Although it isn’t technically a tree house, we live on a wooded lot up on a ridge. The backyard slopes downward, so it feels like you are up in the trees.


Joanna Leigh watched with great interest as the construction progressed. Each late afternoon after playschool, we went out there to see what had taken shape. At first she was more interested in the blocks of wood created by the sawing and cutting of the framing, rails, and whatever else you make houses with. She picked out all the reasonably sized blocks to stack. Then she would pick them all up and transfer then to another part of the platform. Then stack. Then move. Then look for more.


Best Friends

It shouldn’t be hard to remember who I am; my closest friends, with names like Aches and Pains, are always there to remind me. When it’s time to go in and Joanna Leigh doesn’t want to, I have to pick her up crying and squirming to get down. Worse than kicking, she puts her arms straight up above her head and goes slack. She could easily just slide out of my hands and arms. It’s not easy. I’ve become creative about luring her into the house for supper.

On the day the stairs to the second floor “tree house” were built, I thought,” Uh oh. No railing yet, not on the stairway around the top floor. Eee gads.” Could I keep her on the first floor with the blocks? Nope. So, up we went. This is when I remembered who I am.

Admittedly, it was fun at the top, when I wasn’t scared to death to let go of her. She wanted no part of being held onto, so I knew we had to get down as soon as possible. How to coax her was the problem.


So, I didn’t coax. I just picked her up kicking and screaming. Down we went. It felt like forever getting down those rail-less steps. I suddenly remembered who I am and how I’d better be careful -- before the fact.

Wear your seat belt. Don’t fall. Walk every day. Eat right. And on it goes – for a while, anyway.2-treehousePhotos by Alice Wilson, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. See her copyrighted work: http://www.alicewilsonphotography.com/

Real Father’s Day Part II: Destiny Happens

Lieutant John T. Cravey and daughter Joanna, August 1943
My life did not depend on my father’s surviving World War II; I was already born. Who I became and am today did depend in some un-measureable degree on his survival; miraculously and still mainly mysteriously, he returned – from the Alps and the German Prisoner of War camp where he spent the ending months of the War. The Germans deserted the camp as they heard Allied forces nearing. He spent his 30th birthday, May 9, 1945, wandering around the small town near the camp with a friend, looking and begging for food. Then he came home.
Military service and war affects families in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. Separation from mothers and fathers currently serving in the military is one of the reasons – highly underreported and understudied – that grandparents are raising or keeping grandchildren. Separation from my father because of war was my story for the first two years of my life.
This Christmas 1944 Dad was meeting up with his P-51 and destiny
Now we know a lot more about how a father’s and daughter’s separation can affect the daughter.
Sociologist and executive director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, Christine Carter, decided to put her research on raising happy children to practical use in Half Full: Science for Raising Happy Kids mentioned in Spittin’ Grits’ previous post.
Here are two of the five items she lists as results of a father’s interaction in a daughter’s life:
In general, kids who have dads that actively participate in their care and that interact with them a lot are more likely to:
1. Be smarter and more successful in school and work.
2. Be happier. Children with positively involved fathers are more likely to be happier and more satisfied with their lives over-all. They experience less depression, distress, anxiety, and negative emotions like fear and guilt.
Having received his wings in 1942, Dad spent a lot of 1943-44 in training at various posts, in and out of mom’s and my life. In late 1944 he boarded a naval transport ship in New York to cross the Atlantic, enter the Mediterranean, and land either in North Africa or southern Italy, where the P-51 Mustangs were based as part of the 15th Air Force.
Historic Mission
On February 22, 1945 he took off on yet another mission into southern Germany to fly with the bombers and do as much damage to rail lines and other targets as possible. As it turned out, this was a historic turning point in the War. The headline and body copy in a United Press report from London printed in newspaper I can’t identify, said:
“9,000 Planes Pound Nazi Rail Lines: Greatest Air Fleet of War Deals Kayo Blow. In a massive coordinated attack, planned and mapped to the last detail, warplanes from all the air forces in the European theater blasted rail lines in western German and [other sites]. . . One Air Force spokesman said the unprecedented strike was aimed at ‘crippling German communications’. . . . Every kind of plane at the disposal of the Allied air chiefs was thrown into combat.”
The article notes that when the Russian Red Air Force planes over the Eastern Front were counted, the total in the air that day would be closer to 11,000 planes.
The remaining three items from the Half Full blog are:
3. Have more friends and better relationships. Children whose fathers are positively involved have better social skills; they tend to be more popular and better liked. They have fewer conflicts with their peers.
4. Have happier, healthier mothers. When fathers are emotionally supportive of their children’s mother (whether or not they are married), moms are more likely to enjoy a greater sense of well-being.
5. And they are LESS likely to get into trouble, or otherwise engage in risky behavior.
Hitting the Silk
My dad’s first problem that February afternoon was that he took flak and had to turn back toward home base. The officer for whom he was wing man, Capt. R.H. Zierenberg, was accompanying him. He watched the whole thing. Dad’s second problem was that his P-51 engine conked out, and by now they were over the Tyrolian Alps. And his third problem was that he had to bail out onto a 10,000-foot mountain peak in one of Europe’s coldest winters. (The Battle of the Bulge began in late December 1944.)
In April, Capt. Zierenberg wrote my mother a long letter telling her everything he knew about dad’s bailout. At the end of the letter, he hand drew a map of the area where dad went down (pictured below). That was all he knew.

Then dad’s problems really started. It was 5 degrees below zero. For three days he walked down, down, down. Then he met up with some Germans who took him prisoner. He was transported to Moosburg camp in Bavaria. When he finally got back to the U.S., he was about 60 pounds thinner, which would have meant this six-foot three-inch man weighed about 125-30 pounds.
  Fall 1945: Dad had been in the U.S. a year or so; he was still very thin.
I have had the 78 rpm record of “Daddy’s Little Girl,” pictured in Part I, for longer than I can remember. Although I don’t know the circumstances of how I got it, I remember dad playing it for me many times on the old victrola. I can’t play the record any more, but I can listen to Al Martino’s version.
I’ve always been awed and inspired by his story, but researching information for the Father’s Day post, Part I, kicked it up a notch or ten. When he was driving me home after I graduated from The University of Alabama, he told me that my education was the best gift he could ever give me. It was the second best; his influence on me is by far the greatest gift he could ever have given me.
It’s a day late, but not too late, to take the advice of Christine Carter’s Half Full:
So this Father’s Day, pat the involved dad in your life on the back—or better yet shower him with scientific evidence of his importance by forwarding him this posting. And if YOU are the engaged dad in the picture, sit back and relish your profound importance. There may be no greater way that you can contribute to the greater good than by being positively engaged in the lives of your kiddos.

Joanna Leigh,  May 2009

Real Father’s Day Part I

Ordinarily I wouldn’t give my husband a Father’s Day gift. His children will do that. But these are not ordinary times, and I did surprise him with a Sony 12-megapixel, 4x zoom lens Cyber-shot digital camera, much advanced over his 5-year-old version.

 2 photos with the new camera


This camera is a symbol as much as it a functional object to record many, I hope, years of happy memories.


As a symbol, it acknowledges that “Papa” is and will likely be the only real father our granddaughter will know, as we have legal custody of her. Truth: I hope Joanna Leigh will never have to know her biological father. He is a meth addict with other children he has never had anything to do with; he has never shown any interest in our granddaughter other than signing a paternity affidavit; he is a loser who will soon go back to prison for meth use and manufacturing.

Reality: she may want to know about him or meet him one day. Thankfully, she will have Papa to provide the father-daughter relationship that every female child needs and help to prepare her to face hard realities one day.

Newsy Fathers and Daughters

I can speak to the father-daughter relationship, particularly to the positive, healthy, and wonderful kind, and I’m forever grateful for it. The potential in that relationship is without bounds. Fathers and daughters, and by implication their special relationship, is a current newsmaker, thanks to Malia and Sasha Obama and the relationship with their father, who can serve as good a role model and ambassador as anyone. His primary message is that fathers need to be involved and included.

Instinctively we know that the father-daughter relationship is both special and necessary for the daughter’s emotional health and stability. But sometimes we don’t know how or why. Today, though, we are lucky today to have 10 or 15 years worth of science that solidly supports our instincts. I have been researching and reading in total amazement of the quantity. Thank goodness my father knew it instinctively.

Joe Blow - WebPhoto by Emory Kimbrough 

War Torn

Military service and war has always separated fathers and children. This was my story for the first two years of my life, which will be the subject of the following post.

There is so much research out there that it is hard to summarize. A lot is for a father’s involvement with sons and daughters. A start might be Jeremy Adam Smith’s The Daddy Dialectic blog, particularly the July 14, 2008, post “The Astonishing Science of Father Involvement.”

Science for Fathers

He lists factors that research shows matter, but a surprising one goes like this:

There's another factor that I don't think gets mentioned often enough: early involvement with infant care. When a child is born, testosterone falls dramatically in men. In fact, studies by biologist Katherine Wynne-Edwards and others show that pregnancy, childbirth, and fatherhood trigger a range of little hormonal shifts in the male body—but only if the father is in contact with the baby and the baby’s mother, a crucial point.

He also leads the reader to an important blog site, Half Full: Science for Raising Happy Kids:

My esteemed colleague at the Greater Good Science Center, executive director Christine Carter, posted two very nice summaries of research into fatherhood over at her "happy kids" parenting blog, Half-Full. The first asks: Are Dads as Essential as Moms? The answer is, Of course!

One of Carter’s points addresses the leading cause of the breakdown in the relationship between fathers and children:

One of the biggest problems with divorce is that when a father moves out, the father-child relationship frequently falters. If he stays in the game, his kids will cope far better with the divorce.

Science for Fathers and Daughters

The mother lode (sorry, couldn’t resist) of information specifically on the father-daughter relationship is Dr. Linda Nielsen’s site.   A professor at Wake Forest University, Nielsen teaches “the only college course in the country that focuses exclusively on father-daughter relationships.” She is the author of numerous works, including Embracing Your Father: Creating the Relationship You Want with Your Dad (McGraw Hill 2004) and Between Fathers and Daughters: Enriching & Rebuilding Your Adult Relationship (Cumberland House, 2008). These works are aimed at the daughters and how they can take steps to repair relationships with their fathers.

One of the most compelling reasons she gives for tending to this specific relationship follows:

    • Fathers generally have as much or more impact as mothers do in the following areas of their daughters’ lives: (1) achieving academic and career success—especially in math and science (2) creating a loving, trusting relationship with a man (3) dealing well with people in authority—especially men (4) Being self-confident and self-reliant (5) Being willing to try new things and to accept challenges (6) Maintaining good mental health (no clinical depression, eating disorders, or chronic anxiety) (7) Expressing anger comfortably and appropriately—especially with men.

Wow. If you have daughters, this resonates.

But she is changing direction. Because of the huge numbers of fathers and daughters affected by divorce, she is working on Divorced Dads and Their Daughters. She wrote a 1999 article for Journal of Divorce and Remarriage,  which likely is the groundwork for the upcoming book, and more information on this topic is already available in Embracing Your Father. The last paragraph of the article likely foreshadows her book’s themes:

In many ways then, our research is reminding us that divorced fathers are often demoralized and demeaned in ways that make it difficult for them to maintain close relationships with their children. Many of our personal and legal beliefs about divorced men and divorced women work against fathers. We still have far to go in providing the support and the compassion that divorced fathers deserve as adults whose marriages have ended, but whose feelings, needs, and desires as parents endure.

What science has discovered about the effects of a father’s presence in his daughter’s life offers one clear message: The knowledge makes it clearly our responsibility to make the father-daughter relationship happen.


The 78 rpm record above will be explained in Part II


Cheney’s approval ratings hovered around 13 percent for a long time; what was left was a big number – 87 percent. If you exaggerate your own importance, you see only the big number. Presto, change-o! The only interpretation of the big number is verification of his politics, philosophies, and policies. And mental condition. (See The Last Vice, Part I posted on May 11.)


The Best and Greatest Disapproval Ratings

He expressed confidence that files, a.k.a. history, will one day be publicly accessible, offering specific evidence that waterboarding and other policies he promoted — over sharp internal dissent from colleagues and harsh public criticism — were directly responsible for averting new Sept. 11-style attacks. This belief is clearly an expectation of a favorable historical rating, despite all the evidence to the contrary, including THE MEMOS.

“If it hadn’t been for what we did — with respect to the terrorist surveillance program, or enhanced interrogation techniques for high-value detainees, the Patriot Act, and so forth — then we would have been attacked again,” he said. “Those policies we put in place, in my opinion, were absolutely crucial to getting us through the last seven-plus years without a major-casualty attack on the U.S.”

Gee, I thought that we were attacked in the first place because “his” administration was paying all of its attention to Iraq and wasn’t listening to the intelligence reports. Anyone else think that besides Leahy?

You know, it’s possible that Mickey Mouse could have kept us safe once the intelligence community got its act together; then we wouldn’t have even needed the enhanced torture techniques, or whatever name Cheney put on it. Anyone else think that?

Skating on the Waterboarding

“An individual with narcissistic personality disorder exhibits an inability to empathize with others,” says the online diagnosis. Hmmm. Cold as a stone? When reminded last year that Americans wanted to end the Iraq war, he responded true to his nature: “So?”

“Self-involvement and lack of empathy characterize this personality disorder,” it goes on. The conclusion must be that enhanced torture on people you have no feelings for doesn’t really count; it just gets good information, despite evidence to the contrary.

“People with narcissistic personality disorder . . . need to be the center of attention. . . . To get the attention [the narcissist] craves, he may try to create crises that return the focus to him.”

All the narcissist has to do, then, is go on Fox News or talk with Limbaugh on Politco, and it’s a done deal. History is listening.

More on THE MEMOS and other matters in upcoming posts.


The Grits Grammar War in Three Parts Hominy – Part I

Is they or are they? Grits, I mean.

The Grits Grammar War (see the May 4 post “First Food for First Family”) can polarize language pundits and mavens into two extreme camps with no grey area in between: Grits is a singular noun, like news, which is a something made up of a bunch of pieces, ends in s, but acts as one something. So, “News is a staple of the American information junkie.”

And, “Grits is a breakfast staple in the South.” Grits just looks plural. That’s merely perception.

“Hell no,” says the other extreme. We’re dealing with reality, not perception. The word grits is a plural noun. You can plainly see that: it ends in s because grits are made up of lots of pieces. It’s like measles and scissors, one thing ending in s that is composed of more than one. You cain’t have just one – a grit, a measle, or a scissor. Plural, plain and simple.

By the way, “cain’t” is a very Southern way of saying “can’t.” Northerners will probably get used to that about the time they get used to grits.

This Grammar War was likely ignited unknowingly when FLOTUS Michelle Obama let the cornmeal out of the bag during a kitchen tour before a state dinner the same night as the 2009 Oscars. She told one of the culinary students that the White House chef cooked up some “mean waffles and grits.” Show time for grits.

Pre-emptive Poles

Those grits mavens at the is pole and at the are pole say, “You’re either with us or against us.” That attitude is what issue-polarizing is made of. So, maybe Rush Limbaugh is behind revitalizing the Grits Grammar War. By the looks of him, he’s also trying to corner the grits market. Truth outs.

Creating polarity on the grits issue could be an attempt to discredit and dishonor the Obama’s good name; it is not just a little more subtle that saying, “I hope he fails!”  Limbaugh could also be getting revenge for the Dems calling him the de facto head of the GOP, probably an attempt to make an end-run around any credible leader.

The irony, of course, is that this Grits Grammar War raged for a while in The New York Times, with food guru Craig Claiborne at the center. I suppose this fact could indicate a left-wing conspiracy.

So maybe James Carville is stirring things up, suggesting that laughing at GRITS is tantamount to assaulting the Southern Way of Life. This way, Southerners by the droves would run to the Democratic Party.

More on this conflict in the next Grits Grammar War post.

Meanwhile, what the heck is/are grits?

Lye Grits

Cornmeal is ground corn; hominy is/are dried, hulled corn kernels; grits is/are finely ground hominy. You have to boil grits in water to make a kind of porridge; you used to be able to buy #2 cans of hominy, but I don’t know if you still can. I will find out my next trip to Piggly Wiggly.

“Hulled” is the key word in how to deal with hominy. Southerners of a certain age are aware of what might be considered a disgusting method for hulling hominy – with Red Devil lye. (Ooops, bad news, lyers


Craig Claiborne, originally from Mississippi, knew about whole hominy kernels long before he became one of the Kings of Culinary America and food editor for The New York Times, as detailed in a June 23, 1982 New York Times piece.

I have an old-fashioned recipe for the preparation of whole hominy, sometimes referred to as lye hominy. It is attributed to the cookbook of Mrs. J.W.T. Faulkner, grandmother of William Faulkner. It begins, “Take 2 or 3 quarts of large (kernel) dried corn and put it in a large iron pot with a pint of strong lye.” You boil it “all day” until the “eye” comes off. That is a perfectly valid recipe; many others call for soaking the dried corn in a liquid containing wood ash; in “The Joy of Cooking” Irma Rombauer explains the wood ash as an attempt to give hominy calcium value.


Claiborne wanted to convince Northerners that whole hominy and grits are delectable and worth looking into. “In that they all derive from the same base - dried kernels of corn, whole or ground - it is scarcely surprising that they team notably well with grated cheese and chilies,” he wrote.

Here’s Claiborne’s cheese and chilies recipe, which he suggests pairs with his grillades very well.

Craig Claiborne’s Cheese Grits Casserole

2-½ cups water

½ cup grits, preferably stone-ground.

Salt to taste

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

½ teaspoon garlic, minced fine

3 tablespoons (more or less to taste) jalapeno pepper, chopped fine

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.

1. Bring water to boil in saucepan and gradually add grits, stirring. Add salt to taste. Cover and cook about 25 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. 3. Add 1-3/4 cups of cheese to the grits and stir. Add garlic, pepper, eggs and Worcestershire. Blend well.

4. Pour mixture into a two-quart casserole and sprinkle top with remaining one-quarter cup of cheese. Place in oven and bake 25 minutes.

In addition to his great grits recipes, he took a firm stand on the grits grammatical correctness issue. We will dissect this correctness in posts to come.

ZEROMETH I: Girl Imploding

Mdaughter was imploding. To imagine what this implosion is like, watch “hackworth’s” video of Seattle’s March 2000 Kingdome implosion:


Methamphetamines do that, imploding the user from the inside out, a little more slowly that it took to destroy the Kingdome, but quicker than most other drugs out there.

Addicts use by snorting, injecting, smoking; then they feel fireworks going off inside them; immediately the poisons in the drug begin to rot their insides, their teeth, their face; then the user becomes wasted to the point of being unrecognizable.

Knowing what happens to meth users and seeing images of its devastation is hard to stomach, and it was happening to my daughter. The terrible truth about meth use is chronicled in all its horror in the state of Alabama’s Zerometh campaign, which teenagers who have watched it have compared to the worst horror movies they’ve seen.


Alabama Gov. Bob Riley kicked off the Zerometh

Campaign in 2008.

When my husband and I realized our daughter was back on meth (and probably had been for months), we knew we had to save her 18-month-old daughter, our granddaughter, Joanna Leigh, from a dangerous future. In December, we went to the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, county Department of Human Resource’s office to sit and wait until someone saw us. Understanding that we could not go into the agency with only suspicions, not even those suspicions developed after 20 years of dealing with our daughter’s unremitting, unrelenting drug use, we went armed with evidence, or so we thought, according to our definition of evidence.

How did we know? Thankfully, a friend of hers realized that in order to protect Joanna Leigh, she had to call us about the drug use. I told the DHR intake worker:

“Mary admitted to a friend that she was doing meth. The admission came out of her mouth. Not only that,” I added, “this friend was just recently with Mary in MY car when she pulled out the tin foil, meth, and whatever else it takes to smoke it, asking, ‘Is this going to bother you?’ as she lit up. The friend witnessed her doing it.”

Finally, I thought to myself, we have the credible evidence. Finally it will be over. Finally Joanna Leigh will be safe and able to grow up in a normal, nice environment and do all the things she deserves to do.

One Tale’s Dead End

Ours has been a story of a 20-plus-year journey through the cratered, wasted landscape of our daughter’s terrible drug addictions. At times we had to keep ourselves from falling into the abyss; at others we spent our efforts keeping our daughter away from the edge.

The clarity of this new mission nevertheless came with a horrible sadness. After decades of trying, we could do nothing more for our daughter; we had done it all – treatment over and over, counseling, throwing her out of the house, taking her into the house, threats, tough love, caring love, leniency when she stole, calling the police when she stole. Everything. We responded with actions based on what we learned over and over in treatment programs, actions based on law, actions based on love, fear, anger, and determination, actions based on every-which-a-way you can imagine. Nothing worked.

This is how the tale of on-going drug addiction most likely ends – in prison, wasted, or dead. Reaching bottom is deeper than an ocean, and it’s called methamphetamines.

The Zerometh ad campaign is harsh, graphic, and gritty. Unlike the “Just Say No” and other unsuccessful campaigns, it is researched and realistic. Teenagers find it disturbing. Created by d groupe ad agency in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the campaign was motivated by the awful meth problem in the state and the fact that 80 percent of district attorneys’ prosecutions are for meth and other drug related crimes.

The three-part video series can be viewed at:

Part I -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4L52LFjNXs

Part II -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEpOVv1B138

Part III -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3tqxSADYQ0

Complete: http://www.zerometh.com/

A Long, Winding New Road

The process to be awarded custody of our granddaughter had begun. But what we discovered about this state’s flawed, powerless system and process to protect the children is shocking. The outrage and frustration led me to get in the caseworker’s face and shout, “Zerometh, Zerometh, Zerometh” over and over. We got custody in spite of, not because or with the help of, DHR.

Future Spittin’ Grits posts will describe how we finally were successful in getting custody of our granddaughter. Currently our daughter is off drugs and claims she has been for several months. I have to hope, in spite of her history and the odds, she can finally make it.

Additional links to stories about the Zerometh campaign:

Tuscaloosa News: http://www.tuscaloos


AP wire: http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20080223/NEWS/742798250

All Mine, All the Time, MINE – Part I


In any language it’s the same: C’est la MIENNE, Es ist MEINE, or in Japanese, or in Swahili, or Esperanto, or pig Latin -- it’s MINE. Always the emphasis is on MINE. It’s MINE. It’s MINE. It’s MINE.

Most people think “NO!” is the language of toddlers. I don’t believe it. “MINE, it’s MINE!” puts “NO!” in time out.

But what escapes me is where toddlers come up with the word “mine” in whatever their language is. Normal adults speaking any language don’t walk around saying “MINE” constantly. How do toddlers attach the word “MINE” to their egocentric, self-oriented, singular world? Then after that, where does the concept that EVERYTHING in the entire world is theirs come from? Adults also don’t go around saying, “THIS is yours, and THIS is yours and THIS is yours,” as they go for a walk in the park.

Maybe later they might say, “All this COULD be yours,” but that’s not the same thing.

Granted, the Terrible Twos are simply preview to the teenage horror to come, but this MINE business really becomes like vomitus.


My granddaughter and I were outside in the garden the other morning. I have about 20 gardenia bushes in the back, and when they are at their peak, the entire back yard smells of the sweet scent of gardenias. I thought, “Oh, this is a wonderful time to add ‘sweet-smelling flower’ to her repertoire.” HA.

I took her to see one of the bushes. I explained how the bloom’s scent is so heavenly. She started grabbing at the flowers. “Mine. MINE. MY sveet fower.”

Oh, yuk. That’s just IT.

My sister was here recently and was amused and horrified at this obsessive use of one word among millions. It became a running joke. We became more and more hysterical. “MY TV clicker.” “MY napkin.” “MY spilled wine.” “MY sponge.” “MY toothbrush.” “MY pillow.”

I was introduced in graduate school to Noam Chomsky’s theories about the predetermined nature of language structure in humans, transformational grammar, and other heady stuff. In his 1975 book Reflections on Language, he poses a hypothetical situation where a scientist is observing a child (maybe a two-year-old?) learning the English language. The scientist sees that the child has learned to form statements and questions like “the man is tall – is the man tall?” He then runs through a scientific method to arrive at the following conclusion about UG (Universal Grammar): “Linguistic theory, the theory of UG construed in the manner just outlined, is an innate property of the human mind.”

Oh, YIKES. But he didn’t hear Joanna Leigh saying, “The fower is sveet – is the fower sveet?”

No, she said “Mine. MINE. MY sveet fower.” And yanked it off the bush.

At the end of that chapter, Chomsky writes, “In the next two chapters I want to say something more about a few of these mental faculties and their interaction.” Well, I looked in the index and did not see “The Terrible Twos.” So not even Chomsky can answer MY question.

When MY sister was leaving, I said to her that when she got back to work on Monday, she could get things straight in the office by starting out with “MY file folders,” “MY cubicle,” “MY ad copy proof,” MY staff meeting,” and so on and on and on and on.

I’m going to go back and re-read MY copy of Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct. Meanwhile, can anyone shed light on this troubling aspect of the human condition?



Photos by Alice Wilson, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. See her copyrighted work: http://www.alicewilsonphotography.com/

For recession watchers: Used copies of Chomsky’s Reflections on Language are available on Amazon.  Used copies of Pinker’s The Language Instinct are also available at Amazon

Out of Focus – and IN

We Are Not Amused - Web

While a lot of tweaking remains, the Spittin’ Grits format and template are largely finished, thanks to Caitlin W., who is a young, multi-talented University of Alabama student. She is privy to mystical secrets of the computer’s highways and byways. She is artistic and talented with languages, including HTML, CSS, and human versions. I hope she will stick with me a while longer.

Caitlin and I agree that being focused is overrated. Being highly specialized just may not fly in this economic environment. Having more interests than you can manage and jumping from one thing to the other just may become the IN method, giving us more of popular than dull and dependable, more of effervescent than flat, more of flighty than grounded. Voted “Best All Around” instead of “Most-Likely to Succeed.” Oh, I could go on and on.

In fact I will go on. I had a colleague once (only once??) who would come into staff meeting and say, “We MUST be focused in order to meet our goals; go out there and be focused.” I thought he was anal-retentive at best.

Physics, Magic, Pictures, Books, Underlines, Teachers, Germany. . .

Oral-expulsive personalities just might take over from now on.

My first cousin is a physicist by education, a juggler and magician by practice, and now an amateur-toward-professional photographer. What a résumé. He came over to take pictures of my granddaughter’s 2nd birthday party. Here’s one or two:

2nd Birthday - Web

MINE! - Web


Maybe this marvelous personality trait runs in the family. If so, it missed my sister, who is very focused and organized. But I think it makes her tired a lot. My methods drive her nuts; she tells me so.

My granddaughter, who just turned two, is not focused. Either that is a two-year-old trait or I am two.

I’ll read anything I can get my hands on. I have a personal library of thousands of volumes, and I keep adding to it. I jump from one book to the other, until I’m reading four or five books at a time. Then when it gets all too confusing, I just go back to the first one and review all the underlines and writing in the margins and notes to myself on the pages, which, of course, I was taught not to do in elementary school. My third grade teacher’s name was, and I’m not making this up, Mrs. Word, and I guess I took it literally. That was in Munich, Germany, where my father was stationed after World War II, and . . . .


MunichClass1 Top: My 1951 report card from Mrs. Word’s class.  In the class photo

I’m the girl on the back row near Ms. Word.

Stop it. Shut up.

I have really digressed this time.

Here’s the point. I confess that I have high hopes that Spittin’ Grits will be a focused place where I can jump from one thing to the other. Notice all those topics in the right-hand sidebar: Just click on one and posts on that subject will pop onto the screen.

In honor of jumping from one thing to the other, I’ll leave you with a grits recipe; there will be more to come. I hope you will click on other topics, comment, tell you friends about Spittin’ Grits, and come back.

From Talk About Good!: Le Livre de la Cuisine de Lafayette, 25th Anniversary edition. Junior League of LaFayette, Louisiana, 1992.

Grits Pudding (p, 118)

4 c. milk 2 slices American cheese

1 c. grits 1 Tbsp. butter

2 eggs salt and pepper to taste

Cook grits with milk instead of water according to directions on box over asbestos mat. Pour grits into greased casserole when stiff, stir in eggs, butter, and chopped cheese. Bake in moderate oven until brown.

Mrs. T. Randolph Freret, Jr.

Photos by Emory Kimbrough

About the Blogette

After retiring from a twenty-five-year career at The University of Alabama, I quickly unretired. My professional experience included working as a senior writer/editor in the Office of University Relations, manager of communications in the Office of Educational Development, adjunct English instructor of composition and literature, and freelance writer.
As an unretiree, I and my husband of 40 years-plus are parenting grandparents of our (now) six-year-old granddaughter whom we have formally adopted. Reasons you might expect required our becoming parenting grandparents: our daughter’s unrelenting drug addictions, the situation that motivated my decision to begin my blog, Spittin’ Grits.
Two circumstances built the framework of my life: First, I grew up a military brat in the U.S. Air Force. That lifestyle widened my view and broadened my understanding. My father flew P-51 Mustangs in World War II. He was shot down over the Alps, survived, was captured and taken to a POW camp in Germany. He remained in the U.S.A.F. as a career officer. His influence on me is immeasurable.
Second, I spent my formative high school years in Anchorage, Alaska where my father was stationed; I graduated from Anchorage High School in 1961. Alaska is oversized, outrageous, and above all, spiritual. The AHS class of ’61 held its 50th reunion in 2011. A 50th reunion seems over the top, but I was there.

I welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. Obscene, profane, abusive and off-topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for abiding by these rules and for taking part.
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